Congratulations to the 2023 KNI Catalyst Awardees!

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Graduate students Prachi Thureja and Levi Palmer are recognized for their outstanding contributions to community building and efforts to create a more inclusive, equitable and diverse culture in STEM.

Levi Palmer and Prachi Thureja

June 27, 2023

The Kavli Nanoscience Institute established the KNI Catalyst Award in 2021 to recognize researchers who contribute to the betterment of our Caltech and STEM communities through active support and engagement in diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

This work is very often unpaid and driven heavily by students and postdoctoral scholars on campus, who must balance these efforts with their academic and scientific responsibilities. In celebration and support for some of the change makers at Caltech, the KNI Catalyst Award comes with a cash prize to be shared among the year's honorees.

In order to be considered for this award, formal nominations were submitted by peers, colleagues, or advisors, and a review committee evaluated the submissions to select the winners.

We are very pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 KNI Catalyst Award are graduate students Levi Palmer and Prachi Thureja. Learn more about their work and contributions below.


Levi Palmer

Fourth year graduate student in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering


"Levi is an exemplary example of how a Caltech student can push the boundaries of science and outreach simultaneously. Levi has led efforts in everything from the large-scale DOE LiSA project to promoting DEI moments at Chemistry and group seminars. I am so excited that his PhD will leave an impact on multiple aspects of Caltech."

- Scott Cushing, assistant professor of Chemistry

Levi PalmerDuring his time at Caltech, Levi Palmer has been a steadfast supporter and organizer for the LGBTQIA+ community on campus and beyond. In addition to serving as a core member of PRISM, Caltech's LGBTQ+ student association, Levi has dedicated numerous hours to engaging in STEM outreach activities for local middle and high schools. In 2021, Levi helped to implement new processes and resources to improve graduate applications, gender-inclusive campus mapping, and outreach and mentorship opportunities through the Diversity in Chemistry Initiative (DICI) for the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering division. Levi has made an outsized impact on an individual level as a mentor to students and on a systemic level at Caltech.


Learn more about Levi, his research, and his experiences at Caltech, here.



Prachi Thureja

Fourth year graduate student in Applied Physics

"This award shows our recognition for Prachi's efforts to connect women at all levels through coffee hours, lunches and workshops and to advocate for an inclusive and supportive environment that benefits the entire EAS community."

- Melany Hunt, Dotty and Dick Hayman professor of Mechanical Engineering and chair of the Engineering & Applied Science Division's DEI committee

Prachi ThurejaAs a strong supporter for equity in STEM, Prachi Thureja serves as co-president of Womxn in EAS, a division-wide affinity group and working space for women and female-identifying members of the Engineering and Applied Science community at Caltech. Among the many initiatives Prachi has championed, she has organized professional development workshops and socials to help improve the campus climate for women students, postdocs, and faculty. Prachi also serves as a role model in her research group and coordinates instructional series and dinners to help all members, new and established, feel more included.


Learn more about Prachi, her research, and her experiences at Caltech, here.